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Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics

ISBN: 978-1-118-99762-8
264 pages
December 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics (111899762X) cover image


Pandemics, epidemics and food borne diseases are a major global challenge. Focusing on the food and farming sector, and mobilising social theory as well as empirical enquiry, Pathological Lives investigates current approaches to biosecurity and ask how pathological lives can be successfully ‘regulated’ without making life more dangerous as a result.  

  • Uses empirical and social theoretical resources developed in the course of a 40-month research project entitled ‘Biosecurity borderlands’
  • Focuses on the food and farming sector, where the generation and subsequent transmission of disease has the ability to reach pandemic proportions
  • Demonstrates the importance of a geographical and spatial analysis, drawing together social, material and biological approaches, as well as national and international examples
  • The book makes three main conceptual contributions, reconceptualising disease as situated matters, the spatial or topological analysis of situations and a reformulation of biopolitics
  • Uniquely brings together conceptual development with empirically and politically informed work on infectious and zoonotic disease, to produce a timely and important contribution to both social science and to policy debate
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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

Series Editors’ Preface x

Acknowledgements xi

Foreword xiii

Part I Framing Pathological Lives 1

1 Pathological Lives – Disease, Space and Biopolitics 3

Introduction: The Emergency of Emergent Infectious Diseases 3

The Four Moves of Pathological Lives 8

References 21

2 Biosecurity and the Diagramming of Disease 25

Disease Diagrams 27

The Disease Multiple: Germs and the Return of the Outside 31

Biosecurity and the Diagramming of Disease 34

Conclusions 47

References 49

3 Reconfiguring Disease Situations 52

Disease Situations 54

Microbial Life and Contagion as Difference and Repetition 67

A Topological Disease Situation 72

Conclusions 80

References 81

Part II Disease Situations 87

Introduction 87

References 89

4 ‘Just?]in?]Time’ Disease: A Campylobacter Situation 91

Factory?]Farmed Chicken and Food?]borne Disease 93

Relational Economy of Disease 101

Powers of Life 107

Conclusions 108

References 109

5 The De?]Pasteurisation of England: Pigs, Immunity and the Politics of Attention 112

Birth of the Sty 113

Pigs in Practice – Fieldwork and Translations 119

Immunity, Attention and More?]than?]Human Responses 132

Conclusions 139

References 139

6 Attending to Meat 143

Introduction 143

Mapping the Current Landscape of Food Safety 144

A Failure of Coordination? 151

Inspection as Tending the Tensions of Food Safety 154

Being Stretched 162

Conclusions 164

References 166

7 A Surfeit of Disease: Or How to Make a Disease Public 169

The Media Background to Disease Publics 171

Publicising Disease: From Public ‘Understanding’ to ‘Engagement’ 174

Understanding and Engaging Disease Publics 177

Understanding the Surfeit 179

Conclusions: Making a Disease Public 187

References 189

8 Knowing Birds and Viruses – from Biopolitics to Cosmopolitics 192

Sensing Life 193

A Livelier Biopolitics and a Noisier Sentience 198

A Perceptual Ecology of Knowing Birds 200

Surveying Life 204

Knowing Viruses 206

The Significance of Observation 208

Conclusions 210

References 211

9 Conclusions – Living Pathological Lives 214

Time?]Space and Intra?]Actions 216

A livelier Politics of Life 218

A new Kind of Emergency? 220

References 222

Index 223

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Author Information

Steve Hinchliffe is Professor of Human Geography at Exeter University, UK. He is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and author and editor of numerous books and articles on issues ranging from risk and food, to biosecurity, urban ecologies and nature conservation. He sits on the UK’s Food Standards Agency Social Science Research Committee and has advised DEFRA on responses to exotic disease events.

Nick Bingham is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, UK. Nick’s current areas of research focus include the management of food safety, responses to the pollination crisis, and matters of coordination in smart cities. He is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters and is joint editor of Contested Environments (with Andrew Blowers and Chris Belshaw, 2003).

John Allen is Professor of Economic Geography in the Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, UK. His teaching and research experience includes work on issues of power and spatiality, more recently in relation to financialization, privatization, biopower and topology. His publications include Lost Geographies of Power (Oxford, Blackwell, 2003) and Topologies of Power: Beyond Territory and Networks (2016), in addition to numerous authored and edited books.

Simon Carter is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, UK. Hisresearch interests are in Science and Technology Studies, especially as applied to issues of health and medicine. Most recently, he has been working on an ESRC funded study into how biosecurity interfaces with other concerns in our globalized world. He is the author of Rise and Shine (2007) as well as numerous book chapters and journal articles.
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‘Pathological Lives is much more than an original contribution to the analysis of biosecurity and biopolitics. It shows us how an attentiveness to the complexity of situations can also generate vital normative conclusions.’
Andrew Barry, Chair of Human Geography and Vice-Dean (Interdisciplinarity), University College London

‘Multi-species worlds also include pathogenic microbes. How, for better or worse, to co-exist with these and face the challenges they pose – whilst avoiding the tropes of total warfare and eradication? Pathological Lives is an acute and well-researched book that bravely faces up to this concern and that sets the scene for a new wave of fresh thinking about biopolitics.’
Annemarie Mol, Professor of Anthropology of the Body, The University of Amsterdam 

Pathological Lives offers an illuminating new approach to the problem of emerging infectious disease. The authors outline a relational understanding of disease where host and infective agent are held together by infrastructures of greater or lesser pathogenicity. This book is a rare thing in contemporary social science: a combination of close ethnographic study, critical policy analysis, and a profound philosophical intervention into contemporary theories of life, biopolitics and emergence.’
Melinda Cooper, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney

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